Fight seasonal allergy symptoms with easy breezy tips -  Part 4

Seasonal allergy symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to indoor air contaminants.

As we have seen before, our lungs are the ‘bridge’ between the air we breathe and our bloodstream. Just like we need at least 8 glasses of water per day we take in, on average, 11,000 liters of air per day.

These seasonal allergy symptoms, like sneezing, itchiness, watery eyes, congestion, shortness of breath and shallow breathing are common expressions of very different reactions to air pollution.

Some of the most familiar conditions:

  • Seasonal allergy
  • Non-allergic rhinitis,
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

All these conditions may show specific symptoms, may appear in different scenarios, can be attributed to different seasons or weather events and may originate from particular triggers.

Dust seen through a ray of light.Usually invisible, dust in our indoor air carries many toxic substances.

And of all of the above is an inherently personal and subjective experience

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, while contaminant levels from individual sources may not pose inherent health risks, most homes have more than one source of contaminants and so it is the cumulative effect of these sources that can pose a serious risk.

If you think about it, being indoors is not only about being at home or at work. We are also in closed spaces when we are in our car, commuting, shopping, etc.

If you live where there are 4 seasons, most of the buildings are weatherized and are designed to be “air-tight” to reduce heat loss in the winter and keep cold air in during the Summer.

Window frame with condensation.

If your house has been made energy-efficient, this is further exacerbating poor indoor air quality

So, you might be able to open a window, but what if the air outside is even worse?

Well, in most of the U.S. thankfully, we don’t have the severe air crisis that places like China has. I think it’s fair to say that an open window is harmless and quite beneficial in this part of the world!

The Guardian news article about China's air quality crisis.A news article from 2018 in The Guardian, March 27, 2018.

However, as an industrialized nation, we have a hefty dose of air pollutants:

  • Ground-level ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lead
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide

But indoor air has its very own set of suspects:

  • Radon – radioactive gas from the earth and rock beneath your home (basement), contributes to lung cancer, should be tested annually
  • Tobacco smoke – from cigarettes, pipes and cigars, major source of cancer and heart disease
  • Carbon monoxide – from unvented gas heaters, leaky chimneys, back-drafting furnaces, automobile exhausts and tobacco smoke. At high levels it can lead to death.
  • Organic Gases – coming out of paints, paint thinners, solvents, preservatives, sprays, disinfectants, air fresheners, hobby supplies and even dry-cleaned clothing. Produces respiratory irritation and infections.
  • Formaldehyde – sourced from hardwood plywood paneling, fiberboard and dry-wall, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, drapes and other textiles. Irritations and allergic reactions occur.
  • Pesticides – insecticides, pesticides, disinfectants, anything used by a Terminator. Irritations and damage to central nervous system may occur.
  • Asbestos – out of deteriorating insulation, fireproofing, acoustic materials and floor tiles. Long-term high risk of cancer.
  • Lead – common in lead-paint and contaminated soil, dust and drinking water. At high levels can cause convulsions, coma and even death.
  • Nitrogen dioxide – a lesser know evil from heaters and unvented gas stoves and tobacco.
  • Biologicals – like mold or fungi, growing in moist areas, old humidifiers, bedding, carpet and furniture. Dust mites and other pests.

We all know about the risk of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is extremely hazardous. At high concentrations it can cause unconsciousness and death.

Lower concentrations can cause dizziness, headaches, weakness and confusion. CO interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout our body making it a deadly air contaminant.

The easiest way you can protect yourself from these pollutants is to minimize the release of them in the first place

Woman opening a window.Open windows from time to time to re-circulate fresh air in rooms.

Do a house walk-through to help you jog your memory and identify problem spots that you can handle yourself.

Have your basement annually tested for radon and make sure your fire and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the house are in working order.

Use appliances as per the manufacturer’s instructions, store any solvents and other housecleaning products tightly closed and properly stored. Make sure there is adequate ventilation around the house on a daily basis to keep fresh air coming in.

A technologically advanced air purifier will take care of nearly all contaminants. It should capture, absorb, and neutralize the air in your rooms and give you sufficient air flow to keep the air pure while it’s on.

As we have seen, it’s not just about seasonal allergy symptoms, the quality of the air we breath is a vital part of the overall health puzzle.

Seasonal allergy symptoms is the most common way people experience and explain a whole array of respiratory ailments

Breathing is a complex and extremely delicate component of your life.

Every breath you take, usually every 5 seconds, is taken care of by your body, without your input, to keep you alive.

In the next story, we’ll dive deep into the anatomy of breathing to get a better picture of how and why the quality of the air we breathe is a crucial element.

Part 5 - Breathing anatomy and how things work

Back to Breathe

Back to Home Page

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, The inside story: a guide to indoor air quality, 
Encyclopedia Britannica, Sick building syndrome,
Environmental Protection Agency, Indoor air quality,
California Air Resources Board, Reducing indoor air pollution,

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